Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Guitar Hero 5

Now that I'm done with Expert Guitar Career, it's time to sit down and discuss my thoughts on the game.

There are some graphical improvements over previous games, as always.  The venues look great.  But that doesn't really matter when you're only going to be looking at the fretboard the entire time.  The best graphical improvement is thus the fretboard itself.  Gone are the busy, distracting designs.  It's simply black.  It has a design, but it's black.  Contrasts well with the notes and doesn't get in the way.  For-fucking-finally.  Though honestly we had the "Black Highway" option in Guitar Hero: Metallica, it was strangely gone from Smash Hits.

Gone is battle mode.  At least in the PS2 version.  I do know that the PS2 version is tremendously stripped down from the versions for current-generation consoles, and to a certain degree that can be expected.  Party mode ships without its ability to make a playlist and the drop-in, drop-out play that was touted in all the promotions.  Also, the "play with any instrument combination" bit of hype is "play with 2 guitarists or 2 bassists" on the PS2.  The game will only let you use two guitars.  And by the way, that's actually exclusive or.  Once you have two guitar controllers joined into the band, the game won't allow any more.

The controller itself is great.  The only problem I've had with it so far is the location of the star power button.  I can activate with it, but I can never get my front-end activations right.  It just feels awkward.  I'd love to have it where the GH3 Kramer had it.  Also, despite their effort to prevent you from hitting one of the two start buttons accidentally, I still find myself doing it.  The controller is actually the very same controller that ships with the PS3 version of the game, and has a USB receiver.  The receiver also has a two port USB hub in it, which is important for connecting a microphone for vocals, since the PS2 only has two USB ports.

Also, now that I have a controller with a touch strip, I've had the opportunity to try it out.  All I can say is: it's pointless.  Beginners don't use it because slider notes come up with no warning and it's difficult to shift up there and back down to the fret buttons, and advanced players don't use it because it's inaccurate, it's impossible to tell where you are on it, and the "tap it to strum" feature interferes with tapping fret buttons in solos.  So just turn it off in the options and forget it even exists.

Even though the controller still has a detachable neck, it looks like they learned their lesson from the GH3 ones and actually have proper male/female connectors for it now.  The connections are solid and the neck doesn't wiggle.  I can't really complain.

Just like with the GH3 controllers for PS2, the receivers are keyed to the guitar they came with.  Also, just like the older controllers, you can press the sync button on the receiver to force it to look for any guitar.

Back to the game.

In addition to the standard modes (Career, Quickplay, Head to Head, Training) and Party mode, there's also Free Play.  It's basically equivalent to the Party mode, except you get to choose your song instead of it just being on shuffle with an option to skip in the pause menu.  Both Party mode and Free Play turn on no-fail and remove star power and scoring points, but the difference is that Free Play lets you make six-song playlists.

Actually, that's one of the best features that the current generation console versions of Guitar Hero have had for a while that the PS2 never got until now: making a six-song playlist in Quickplay (and in Free Play lol).  You scroll through the list selecting songs with the green button, and when you're satisfied, you hit start to play.

In terms of other new features, we have hammer-on/pull-off chords now.  Which can be confusing when they're really close together.  Overall they're pretty fun when you can hit them.  Check out the intro to Judith by A Perfect Circle, which has some pretty fun HOPO chord sequences.

There are some new cheats this time around as well: with the HOPO chords comes the Always HOPO cheat that turns any note it possibly can into a HOPO.  It disables your ability to get high scores, but it's fun nonetheless.  Try it with Always Slide on and you'll only ever need to strum repeated chords.  There's also Free Drum.  I don't have a drum controller, so I haven't tried it out, but since it disables high scores, I can pretty much infer what it does.  It most likely turns the drum part for any given track into a freestyle part where you can just play whatever the fuck you want.

The most useful of all of the cheats, however, is Focus Mode.  It disables the venue in the background, so there's less stuff to distract you from the notes.

Playing through the game, you'll notice that something isn't there.  Something that all previous Guitar Hero games have had up until now.  What could it be?  Money.  You no longer get money for playing a track, and unlockable things no longer cost money.  This is a good thing, it means that all the clothing options that are available are unlocked, and whenever the game says "You've unlocked more stuff!", you don't have to pay money for it.  It's just there, ready to be used.  The whole "infinite money" system from World Tour and its derivatives was a step in the right direction, and this was the ultimate solution.

Soundtrack-wise, the game is fairly varied.  It's a combination of oldfag music, 90s music, new stuff, metal, and weird stuff.  Also, why did it seriously take them until Guitar Hero 5 to put Smells Like Teen Spirit in a GH game?  Also, for some reason, there's a rap song.  Yeah, it's got Zakk Wylde on guitar, I don't care.  Rap in Guitar Hero?  Seriously?

In terms of overall difficulty, it's a pretty good game for newcomers.  There's only three truly difficult tracks.  Some of the rest have complex bits in them, but overall they're way less difficult.

Overall, other than the fact that the game lacks the features that were stripped out of it for the PS2, I can't really complain.  It's a decent addition to the franchise, and it's exactly what any fan of the franchise wants: more levels.

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